Obama: Regime-Changing Neocon?

Everyone was so focused on the part of President Obama’s Middle East speech about a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders that his transformation into a democracy-spreading, regime-changing neocon was missed. He proclaimed the goal of American foreign policy in the Middle East is “to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy.” Those are more polite words for incremental regime changes of all the undemocratic governments.

The beginning of President Obama’s term was marked by a concerted effort to convince the Iranian regime that the U.S. does not seek its removal. An “outstretched hand” was offered to rogue states and funding was cut to organizations undermining the Iranian regime. The Obama administration reversed course over time, especially since the advent of the Arab Spring. Human rights was always vocally supported, but not in such a loud fashion. Now, policy is being overhauled to make promoting freedom its central component. What a George W. Bush thing to do.

The Obama administration first began warming up to regime change in Iran, even if it did not have a strong strategy to accomplish it. The Green Revolution forced President Obama to begin altering his language and in September, Secretary of State Clinton let it be known that she desires regime change.

“I can only hope that there will be some effort inside Iran, by responsible civil and religious leaders, to take hold of the apparatus of the state,” she said. She denied that she was calling for regime change, but it is obvious that is what she meant. The lack of a coherent strategy in support of this objective can be criticized, but it’s apparent that this is the hope of the administration and some small actions have been taken to help the Iranian protesters.

The Obama administration then supported regime change in Egypt after it became clear that President Mubarak was on his way out. Vice President Biden initially said Mubarak should not step down and that he is not a dictator, but this soon changed as the strength of the revolution was realized.

Up next was Libya. The Obama administration called on Muammar Gaddafi to give up power, but began a confusing policy by not making this an objective of the military campaign. The stated goal was to prevent Gaddafi from bloodily massacring the rebels in Benghazi at the very last moment and to stop the attacks on civilians. President Obama continues to speak in support of Gaddafi’s removal, but says military resources will not be used for this purpose. This is a policy of regime change, even if its implementation sends mixed signals.